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Viktor Hovland Wins FedEx Cup With The Best 2 Weeks Of His Career

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ATLANTA, Ga. – Viktor Hovland knew he was playing the best golf of his life. With a six-shot lead in the Tour Championship on Sunday, he reasoned that a steady diet of fairways and greens, with lots of pars, would be the most certain path to winning the FedEx Cup.

Xander Schauffele forced him to alter his ideas.

The 25-year-old Norwegian sensation then outperformed himself.

Hovland didn’t back down from Schauffele’s unrelenting challenge, matching birdies from start to finish at East Lake until he closed off the best two weeks of his career with his biggest prize — a FedEx Cup title and the $18 million bonus.

He closed with a 7-under 63, the lowest winning score in Tour Championship history, and won by five strokes over Schauffele.

“The game plan was to try to play as boring as possible — to play it like Tiger back in the day when he would post a 69 or 70 in a major championship and walk away with the victory,” Hovland explained.

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Viktor Hovland knew he was playing the best golf of his life.

This was far from boring golf, with Hovland shooting 63 and Schauffele shooting 62. On the back nine, a six-shot advantage was reduced to three shots when Hovland hammered in a 25-foot par putt on the 14th hole, making an already steep hill impossible for Schauffele to ascend.

“What he was doing today was very special,” remarked Hovland. “It made this day a lot more stressful than it should have been.”

So ended a season in which Hovland won the Memorial for the first time in the United States, had a multiple-win season, and then capped it off with two weeks of superb golf in which he won the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields and the Tour Championship at 36-under par.

“It’s pretty surreal to be standing here right now,” Hovland said as he accepted the FedEx Cup trophy in silver. “I basically played my best golf in the last two weeks, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

Schauffele forced him to work for the $18 million by shooting at flags from the opening hole. He was within three shots of the lead with seven holes to go and had momentum on his side. Then, on the 14th hole, Hovland ended the suspense with a 25-foot par putt, and on the 16th, he put Schauffele away with a 10-foot birdie putt.

Schauffele and Hovland put up a fantastic performance. They achieved the top scores of the day despite playing in the last group on a day that was delayed by over two hours due to thunderstorms. The next highest score was 65 by players with little chance of winning.

“I thought 62 would have let me get close to him,” said Schauffele. “He played incredibly well.” He made crucial putts and played like a champion.”

Hovland entered the Tour Championship with the No. 2 seed, which meant he began the tournament at 8-under par. Hovland finished with a 19-under 261 — the same total as Schauffele, who began the event as the No. 15 seed at 3 under.

It was the second time in four years that no one scored higher than Schauffele, and he departed Atlanta empty-handed. Such is the essence of the FedEx Cup finals and the significance of a great season and a strong showing in the two postseason events preceding the Tour Championship.

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Viktor Hovland knew he was playing the best golf of his life.

“I’ll hold my head up high,” Schauffele added. “It was the most fun I’d had losing in a long time.” It’s a strange sensation. I shot 62. I came up short by five points. Hovi deserves nothing but praise. He played incredibly well in the previous few weeks to get himself into this situation and to put the icing on the cake for himself and his club.”

Schauffele did everything in his power. He was six strokes back as he departed East Lake on Saturday evening, knowing his only chance was to put as much pressure on Hovland as he could during the first nine holes.

Schauffele made 30 shots. After a two-hour delay caused by thunderstorms that significantly softened the East Lake turf, Hovland nearly matched him birdie for birdie, carding a 31 that included a crucial 15-foot par save on No. 2.

Despite his California cool, Schauffele was eager for the fight regardless of the odds.

He birdied the par-3 11th hole from 18 feet and then the 12th from 12 feet, trimming the advantage to three strokes with seven holes to play. Given Schauffele’s brilliantly playing and Hovland’s three missed birdie opportunities from 10 feet or closer on the back nine, the margin felt even narrower.

The crucial putt came on the 14th hole, East Lake’s most difficult. Hovland came up around 100 feet short of the green, about 100 feet from the flag, and his pitch could have been better, stopping just inside 25 feet of the hole.

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Viktor Hovland knew he was playing the best golf of his life.

He poured it into his heart and fist-pumped harder than he had all day. The deciding shot was another perfect short iron to 10 feet on the 16th for birdie. The engraver then began work on the silver FedEx Cup trophy.

“It was huge for momentum when that putt went in.” “Two shots with four holes to play is not the same as three shots, especially with 15 holes to go,” Hovland added, alluding to the par-3 to a peninsula green. “After that, I just felt really relaxed.”

He finished with three consecutive birdies that were important for the margin of victory.

Now, it’s up to his peers to assess his season. The PGA Tour player of the year was expected to be a two-man contest between Masters champion Jon Rahm and his four wins and Scottie Scheffler, who had two wins and the No. 1 position due to his incredible consistency.

Hovland finished the season with victories at the Memorial and two FedEx Cup playoff tournaments, including the most important.

Wyndham Clark, the US Open champion, won the B-Flight, finishing with a 65 to finish third, 11 strokes back. That equated to a $5 million incentive. Rory McIlroy finished fourth and earned $4 million, while Patrick Cantlay (66) finished alone in fifth and earned $3 million.

The next time Hovland and Schauffele meet will be for no monetary reward — the Ryder Cup in Rome in a month.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Zack Wheeler And Phillies Reach $126 Million, 3-Year Deal For 2025-27

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Philadelphia — Ace Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed on a $126 million, three-year contract for 2025-27, with the fourth-highest average salary in baseball history of $42 million.

The Phillies have set an 11 a.m. EST press conference at their spring training facility in Clearwater, Florida.

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Zack Wheeler And Phillies Reach $126 Million, 3-Year Deal For 2025-27

Wheeler will earn $23.5 million this year in the final season of a $118 million, five-year contract, one of the greatest free agent contracts in Phillies history.

The new contract for the 33-year-old right-hander increases his annual salary to $42 million. He receives a hotel suite on road trips and agrees to make a $100,000 charitable donation each year.

Wheeler’s average trails only Los Angeles Dodgers two-way star Shohei Ohtani ($70 million), Texas ace Max Scherzer ($43.33 million), and Houston pitcher Justin Verlander ($43.33 million), the latter two of whom signed contracts with the New York Mets.

ESPN was the first to report the new contract’s amount.

Wheeler has led the NL in strikeouts and innings over the last four seasons after losing time with ailments with the Mets from 2013 to 2019. He also leads all pitchers in wins above replacement (WAR) while with the Phillies with 19.3, according to FanGraphs.

After missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, Wheeler has made 90 starts over the last three seasons.

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Zack Wheeler And Phillies Reach $126 Million, 3-Year Deal For 2025-27

The NL Cy Young Award runner-up in 2021, Wheeler also won a Gold Glove last season.

The Phillies, who have reached the NL Championship Series in each of the last two years, now have their top two starters anchoring the rotation for the foreseeable future. Philadelphia signed fellow right-hander Aaron Nola to a seven-year, $172 million contract.

In 11 postseason games, Wheeler’s ERA is 2.42.

wheeler

Zack Wheeler And Phillies Reach $126 Million, 3-Year Deal For 2025-27

The Phillies have continued to spend money in their pursuit of their first World Series championship since 2008. Team owner John Middleton has been open about spending money to recruit free agents such as Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber while also signing hefty deals with Nola, Wheeler, and catcher J.T Realmuto.

Wheeler has an 87-63 record and a 3.45 ERA in 227 career starts, dating back to his Mets debut in 2013.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Chris Mortensen, Longtime NFL Insider For ESPN, Dies At 72

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The network reported that Chris Mortensen, an award-winning journalist and longtime NFL insider for ESPN, died. He was 72.

Mortensen worked for ESPN for three decades, appearing on “Sunday NFL Countdown,” analyzing the NFL Draft, and contributing to “SportsCenter.”

“Mort was highly regarded as an industry pioneer and greatly adored as a helpful, hardworking coworker. He covered the NFL with exceptional skill and passion and remained at the top of his game for decades. “Colleagues and fans will sorely miss him, and our hearts and thoughts are with his family,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement.

mortensen

Chris Mortensen, Longtime NFL Insider For ESPN, Dies At 72

Mortensen joined ESPN in 1991 and rapidly became known as one of the most trusted football insiders. He formerly worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, covering the Atlanta Braves and Falcons from 1983 to 1990. While at the newspaper, he received the 1987 George Polk Award for a 110-page article titled “Ignoring the Rules” regarding amateur sports and collegiate players.

He disclosed in January 2016 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer. Mortensen returned to ESPN after declaring that his cancer treatments were successful.

In September 2023, Mortensen said he would leave ESPN “to focus on my health, family, and faith.”

Mortensen joined ESPN in 1991 and spent years shaping the network’s NFL coverage as it expanded to year-round coverage. He appeared on numerous network shows and also wrote for ESPN.com.

In 2016, the Professional Football Writers of America honoured him with the Dick McCann Award. It was renamed the Bill Nunn Jr. Award in 2021 and is given annually during the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies to a reporter who has made a long and notable commitment to game coverage.

Mortensen previously worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983 until 1989. He covered the Atlanta Falcons from 1985 to 1986 and the league from 1985 to 1989. He departed for The National in 1989, where he worked for over two years.

He was an NFL columnist for The Sporting News and a contributor to Sport magazine. He also consulted on CBS’s “The NFL Today” in 1990.

mortensen

Chris Mortensen, Longtime NFL Insider For ESPN, Dies At 72

“I join the millions of hearts across the country, including those in journalism and the sports community, in mourning Chris Mortensen.” “I’m grateful to have had the privilege of knowing Chris through his incredible work beginning at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, like so many others, being blessed by his professional excellence and personal grace over the many years that have followed,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement.

“I considered Chris a personal hero, and it is difficult to imagine sports journalism without him.” His ability to face life’s challenges with tenacity and drive was always truly inspiring, and his immense influence on so many people, including myself, will continue via this work and unwavering friendships.”

Mortensen, a Torrance, California native, attended El Camino College. He spent two years in the Army before starting his journalism career at the South Bay (Calif.) Daily Breeze in 1969.

mortensen

Chris Mortensen, Longtime NFL Insider For ESPN, Dies At 72

“A completely awful day. “Mort was one of the greatest reporters in sports history, and an even better man,” wrote ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter on social media. “Mort was the absolute finest. He will always be missed and remembered.”

He is survived by his wife, Micki, and their son Alex.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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F1 Champion Max Verstappen Wins Season-Opening Bahrain Grand Prix Amid Red Bull Turmoil

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SAKHIR, Bahrain – The continuing turbulence surrounding Red Bull had little influence on their three-time reigning world champion, Max Verstappen, who led the field by 22 seconds in the season-opening Formula One race on Saturday.

Verstappen started the Bahrain Grand Prix on pole and was never truly pushed on his route to a dominant one-two victory for Red Bull alongside teammate Sergio Perez. Christian Horner, the embattled team principal, was joined before the race and during the podium celebration by his former pop star wife, Geri Halliwell.

“Today went even better than expected,” Verstappen stated. “It was a lot of fun.”

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished third for Ferrari, fighting hard with teammate Charles Leclerc.

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F1 Champion Max Verstappen Wins Season-Opening Bahrain Grand Prix Amid Red Bull Turmoil

Verstappen is already on track to match his near-perfect record from 2023, when he won 19 of 22 races, as the longest F1 season in history begins with 24 races.

Verstappen’s ninth consecutive victory, dating back to September last year, came in Bahrain. Last season, he achieved a Formula One record by winning ten straight races.

The F1 paddock has firmly focused on Horner, with Verstappen claiming on Saturday that his boss was “probably a little bit distracted.”

“Obviously, it’s not been pleasant, some of the unwanted attention, but the focus is now very much on the cars,” Horner told reporters. “My focus has very much been on what’s going on on track and the result today, I think, demonstrates where the whole team’s focus is and we move onwards.”

verstappen

F1 Champion Max Verstappen Wins Season-Opening Bahrain Grand Prix Amid Red Bull Turmoil

Horner arrived on race day with Halliwell, better known as Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls, and they celebrated together as Verstappen was presented with his trophy. The race came after FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem told the Financial Times that Horner’s controversy was “damaging the sport.”

On Wednesday, the club’s parent corporation dropped a complaint against Horner for alleged misconduct toward a team employee. A day later, during practice in Bahrain, a file purportedly containing evidence against Horner was emailed to over 200 persons in the F1 paddock, including Liberty Media, F1, the FIA, the other nine team principals, and several media agencies.

The Associated Press did not verify the files’ legitimacy; the file originated from a generic email address.

In another indicator that Red Bull is substantially faster than any other team, Perez surged from sixth to second on the grid and encountered little opposition afterwards.

Sainz’s third place was his first podium finish since the October United States Grand Prix, as George Russell’s Mercedes challenge faded.

After qualifying second, Leclerc stated that Ferrari had taken a “step forward” compared to its disastrous 2023. However, the Italian team needed help to reduce the gap with Red Bull on race day.

Leclerc’s challenge to Verstappen ended as the Dutchman took the inside line at the opening corner. Russell, Perez, and Ferrari teammate Sainz overtook Leclerc in rapid succession.

verstappen

F1 Champion Max Verstappen Wins Season-Opening Bahrain Grand Prix Amid Red Bull Turmoil

Sainz, in particular, fought closely with his teammate and then repeated the effort after Leclerc briefly regained the lead at the pit stop. It was Sainz’s first race after being confirmed that he would lose his Ferrari spot to Lewis Hamilton in 2025.

Leclerc’s day went from bad to worse when he protested to Ferrari that the car was pulling rapidly to the right under braking in a “dangerous” manner, leaving him unable to maintain his position. However, he recovered to pass Russell and finish fourth.

Russell finished fifth, Lando Norris sixth for McLaren, and seven-time winner Lewis Hamilton seventh following an unremarkable race in the second Mercedes. McLaren’s Oscar Piastri finished ninth, ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

SOURCE – (AP)

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